'Showy' pink lady bug found inside the province

When New Brunswickers are relaxing in the sun this summer, they may look down to find a new, brightly coloured friend climbing up their legs.

Unlike its Asian lady beetle cousin, this trendsetter isn't out competing with local populations

A pink spotted lady beetle was found during a bioblitz in western New Brunswick. (Gail Freiherr)

When New Brunswickers are relaxing in the sun this summer, they may look down to find a new, brightly coloured friend climbing up their legs.

The pink spotted lady beetle — a ladybug that swapped the oh-so-last-season red out with a vibrant and in-fashion pink pattern — has been discovered in New Brunswick.

"It's very noticeable," said entomologist Reggie Webster, referring to the critter's colours. "When you see it, it's pretty striking."

Webster and Donald McAlpine, who both work with the New Brunswick Museum, found their specimen near Spednic Lake in August of last year, but only had their findings published in early 2018.

They were on a bioblitz, an attempt by zoologists to catalogue all the given life in a selected area.

"He was sweep netting and I was collecting, using different methods," said Webster, an associate researcher. "At one point he found a lady beetle he thought was different." 

Back at the lab, McAlpine revealed what he found, and Webster recognized it immediately. 

"I knew it was a new record for the province," said the coleopterist, the name for someone who studies beetles.

No danger to other species

Like most lady beetles, this trendsetter's larvae feed on aphids, "so they're actually quite beneficial."

And unlike the stinking, biting Asian lady beetle invading the rest of Canada and now New Brunswick, the pink spotted lady beetle isn't out competing with local populations.

Reggie Webster, a New Brunswick Museum research associate, has discovered more than 1,000 beetle species in the province. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

"It may very well be that it's always been here," said Webster, who has discovered more than 1,000 beetle species in the province.

"We haven't had a lot of people looking for these."

New Brunswick has many species that are "newly discovered" but simply haven't been recorded before, he said. The pink spotted lady beetle can also be found in Maine and Quebec.

Discovered before

Webster and McAlpine weren't the first to find and in some way record the pink beetle in New Brunswick

That distinction goes to Richard Migneau, a social worker turned amateur bug catcher, who found the species near Edmundston in 2014.

While Migneau thought the pink fashionista was a rare bug, he didn't know his discovery was significant. He just likes beetles, birds and all things wild.

"Many of them are really beautiful when you look at them," Migneau said about his work. "They're small but if you look at them, the way they behave is sometimes quite interesting."

The pink spotted lady beetle was found in 2014 in the province by an amateur entomologist who was unaware it was a first in New Brunswick. Two museum scientists discovered it again last year. (Sadik Kassam)

So instead of reporting it to the New Brunswick Museum, he posted it to a North American website dedicated to identifying insects.  

Following the two museum workers' find, the amateur received a call from McAlpine, looking to discuss Migneau's previous discovery.

"I knew there was nothing in the literature dealing with this species in the Maritimes," McAlpine wrote in an email.

"But as so often happens when writing things up, unpublished data turned up that was significant and helped support interpretation of the occurrence data Reggie and I discovered."

Webster said that with thousands of beetles being found in the province, discovering a new one isn't typically remarkable.

"I've found a lot of species for the province that are really nondescript," he said. "Tiny things that most people couldn't care less about — 'Oh, how would you even know this is a beetle?'

"But when you find a real nice showy one, that's exciting."

About the Author

Joseph Tunney

Joseph Tunney is a casual reporter for CBC News in Saint John. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca